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Garden Ramblings, Issue #020
April 15, 2006
April 2006

Monthly musings on the garden scene

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In this issue:

- Letter from the Editor
- Plant of the Month
- Companion Planting
- Choosing a Perfect Hedge
- Special Offers
- Useful Resources



Welcome to the April issue of Garden Ramblings your monthly window on what's going on in the world of gardening.

The "Plant of the Month" is the Tulip which should be in full bloom in public parks and private gardens at this time of year.

Last month it was Moon Planting, this month it is Companion Planting or the practice of grouping certain plants together for their mutual benefit.

If you thinking about growing a hedge, then this next article is for you. Check out these five tips for choosing the perfect hedge.

Spring is finally here and the next few weeks are the busiest of the year for the garden merchants. Not much hope of bargains then, but the Special Offers section contains a mixture of a Spring Clearance, reductions if you spend more than a certain figure and new plants.

The resources section this month follows the theme of companion planting and lists a number of websites that have a wealth of information on this technique.

If you want to keep up with all the news in the gardening world, you can read my blog Garden Supplies News.

Enjoy the issue.




Plant of the Month


Description: The tulip is a spring-flowering hardy bulb of which there are hundreds of modern varieties. The basic form has lanceolate leaves with a single goblet-shaped flower on a stem that ranges from 6 inches to 3 feet depending on the variety. The flowers bloom in April and May in all the colors from pure white to near black, many with multi-colored petals.

Origin: Tulips were introduced to Europe from Turkey but the bulbs are native to countries stretching from the Middle East to the Himalayas.

Cultivation: Tulips thrive in an alkaline soil that is free-draining. Plant the bulbs 6 inches deep in November. After flowering the bulbs can be lifted and replanted in another border if you wish to replace them with summer bedding. Alternatively the bulbs can be planted 12 inches deep in light soils which avoids the need to lift them each year. Propagate by separating the offsets from the bulbs. It is also possible to grow tulips from seed but it takes five to seven years before they produce a flower.

Pests and diseases: Tulips can be damaged by slugs, aphids and eelworms. Various virus diseases can affect tulips, as can mould, bulb rot and psychological disorders.


Folklore:Although it is believed that tulips have been cultivated in Turkey for a thousand years there is little ancient folklore about the plants. Stylized representations of tulips and other flowers are found in ancient Turkish art. These groups represent the Garden of Eden. On its own the Tulip was also used to express the expectation of a male child.

Tulips were introduced into Europe in the mid-sixteenth century, but we are not sure who was responsible. One story tells of Ogier de Busbecq who was an ambassador for the Hapsburgs. In 1555, he was sent to negotiate with Suleiman the Magnificent of the Ottoman Empire. While travelling near Constantinople he saw some tulips and collected a few bulbs which he sent to his botanist friend, Carolus Clusius working in Prague and Vienna.

Some years later Clusius moved to Leyden in the Netherlands taking the bulbs which he planted in the University's botanical gardens. When the local inhabitants saw the blooms, there was an instant demand for the bulbs. Clusius refused to give any away, but a thief stole several bulbs which then changed hands for larger and larger sums of money. This escalated into what has become known as Tulipomania when people paid the equivalent of thousands of dollars for a single bulb in the hope of reselling for even more. In 1637 the bubble burst and the inevitable crash followed leaving many with large losses.


Companion planting

Companion planting is the practice of growing certain plants next to each other either to promote their growth or to help in reducing damage from insect pests. The practice has evolved over a period of many years and ideas that were once dismissed as pure folklore are now recognized to have a sound scientific basis.

The effects of companion planting work in a number of different ways. The scent given off by a plant will attract some insects and repel others. For instance if you plant African marigolds in between your brassicas, the cabbage white butterflies will be attracted by the strong scent from the flowers and avoid your cabbages.

Marigolds are also attractive to predator insects such as lacewings and hoverflies which consume large numbers of aphids. So plants such as nasturtiums which attract huge quantities of aphids will benefit from being sited close to these flowers.

Conversley nasturtiums can be used to act as a decoy and attract aphids away from other plants that you wish to protect.

Some plants exude chemicals from their roots which can be used as another form of pest control. Here again the marigold is a prime example. Its roots release thiopene which repels nematodes and so can protect crops which suffer from these pests.

Another group are plants which increase the health and vigour of their neighbours. One example is parsley which will benefit tomatoes and asparagus. Another is basil which, in addition to aiding the growth of tomatoes, is also supposed to improve the flavour.

A further way in which plants interact is to aid pollination. Various plants are particularly attractive to bees and so encourage these essential insects to visit and pollinate the surrounding flowers and crops. Bee balm and lemon balm are prime examples.

With all these different qualities you will not be surprised to learn that there are certain plants which should not be grown together since they will have an adverse effect upon each other. For instance, do not plant strawberries next to cabbages, or dill near to carrots.

There are many books and websites that publish tables showing which plants are good companions and those that are not. If you try to plan a new garden layout following all the recommendations, you will find it a near impossible task because it becomes far too complicated. But start in a small way and try one or two experiments to see how they will work in your garden and you may be pleasantly surprised with the results.


Five Tips for Choosing the Perfect Hedge for your Yard

So you’ve decided to plant hedges. They do serve many important purposes. Hedges can mark your property boundaries, provide a windscreen and also give you more privacy in your yard. They are also a nice alternative to fencing if you prefer a more natural look for your garden.

Once you’ve made the decision to go with hedges, you need to choose the right one for your yard. When selecting the perfect hedge there are important things like purpose, size and climate to keep in mind. Here are five tips for choosing just the right hedge for your garden space.

1. Figure out Your Purpose

The first thing you need to decide is what purpose your hedges are going to serve. Are they for privacy? Are they to keep pesky creatures out of your yard? Are they to act as a windscreen? Or are they merely to outline your property boundaries? Your purpose might be a mix of these things or all of these things. You need to take the time to consider why you’re planting hedges. The purpose is important because it will determine the types of plant you can use for your hedges. Certain plants are effective for all of these purposes so to purchase and plant the right hedge, you need to know what you need or want from your hedges.

2. Assess Your Climate

Your location and climate will also have an impact on what kinds of plants you can use for hedges. Your garden center should be able to advise you on what sort of plants will do best in your climate. You can also research different planting options online. You’ll be amazed at how much information you can find on shrubs and plants if you spend a bit of time browsing the Internet.

3. Consider the Look of Your Garden

You will need to choose the right kind of hedge depending on the look you are going for in your garden. If you are hoping to mold your hedges into different elegant architectural shapes, then you will need to choose a hedge plant that will allow you that shaping flexibility. On the other hand, if you want something simple and not so ornate, you can choose a dense plant that responds well to clipping, but which does not suit the complex shapes of architectural hedges.

4. Think outside the Box

In the past, there were only a few plants that could be used for hedging. You can create your own informal hedges with a mix of plants that are not commonly used in hedge planting. You can also mix the formal, clipped hedges with older, more flowing looks.

5. Be Realistic

While you may have the best intentions when planting a new hedge, you need to be realistic about the amount of time and energy you can devote to this new addition to your garden. Hedges have many benefits, but they do require care and maintenance. Unlike fences, you will be to stay on top of caring for and trimming your hedges. If you don’t have the time to maintain your hedges properly, you might want to look at other fencing options.

If you do really want a hedge, but don’t have a lot of time to devote to your garden’s upkeep, then choose a variety that requires minimal care and exertion. Trimming can be the most time consuming part of hedge care so if you know your time is limited, choose a hedging option that only requires a clean line trimming and not an architectural hedge.

All of this might seem like a lot of prep work for choosing a hedge, but doing this research and considering all of these factors before you plant your hedges will save you a lot of time in the long run. Knowing things like your needs or purpose, your time limitations, your climate and the look you are going for in your garden, will really help narrow down your hedge choices.


Special Offers

"It's mid-April which means the gardening season has arrived! Gardeners are in hot buying mode. The next 10 weeks are the peak selling season.." according to Gardener's Supply Company" TARGET="_blank">Gardener's Supply Company. So you would not expect them to be offering any reductions, but they do have a Spring Clearance Sale which has been extended to April 27.

Dutch Gardens have a Rose Sale just now where you can save up to 53% on their regular prices. Just take a look at their Hardy Sub-Zero Roses Collection icon which comprises four super-hardy roses bred to withstand sub-zero temperatures. The collection includes 1 each of Arctic Flame, Senior Prom, Dr. Brownell and Maria Stern all for $29.95.

Gurneys will give you free shipping on any order over $10. They are featuring a whole host of perennial collections. For instance there is a Deluxe Daisy Special with 5 plants for $14.95 or a Daylily Color Combo with 3 plants for $12.95.

Brecks Bulbs have a $25 off when you spend $50 or more on their range of spring-flowering bulbs. As an added incentive there is a further $10 reduction if you order before May 3.


Useful Resources

Following on the theme of companion planting I am using this section to introduce you to several websites which contain more detailed information including tables showing which plants make good companions and those that do not.

The first site is Colleen's Corner which has a straightforward Companion Planting Chart.

Next is Garden which has a similar table, but there is also a Herb Companion Chart on an adjoing page.

The National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service has a chart "FOR HOME & MARKET GARDENING". This site contains far more detailed information than the others and explores the scientific basis for companion planting.

The last site is Golden Harvest Organics where there is even more detailed information presented in a different manner. Plants are listed in alphabetical order rather than in a table.


Please feel free to pass on this newsletter to your gardening friends. Do let me have your feedback and suggestions to: [email protected]

That's all until next month but in the meantime you can always look at my Blog Garden Supplies News

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